Tick Precautions for Dog Owners

Written by: By John Teaford

Warm, wet weather in the UK means ticks are on the rise, and they remain persistent outdoor pests from May through October. One third of dogs carry a tick at any given time, so it’s likely most British dog owners will deal with a tick at one time or another. With that in mind, it’s good for us to know where the little buggers are found, how to protect our dogs against them, and what to do when we need to be rid of one.

Tick Environment

Ticks are arachnids (eight-legged insects related to spiders) that feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks don’t fly, they just hide in the greenery and reach out their arms, hoping to hitch a lift as you—or your dog—passes by. Ticks linger in wetter areas (leaf piles, shady shrubs, tall grasses), though they can be found in most outdoor environments in the UK. High-risk areas include Exmoor, the New Forest, the South Downs, Thetford Forest, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Lake District, and the Scottish Highlands.

Tick Prevention for Dogs

Preventing ticks begins with minimising damp, shady tick habitat in your own garden, checking your dog for ticks after every trip outdoors, and removing any ticks you find on him. Preventative products (collars, powders, medications) can also protect pets against ticks. Such products function either by repelling ticks, or by killing them.

● Products that REPEL TICKS (generally available as sprays, long-term chemical applications, or collars) may prevent ticks from coming into contact with dogs, or prevent tick bites.

● Products that KILL TICKS are called acaricides, and are available as dusts, impregnated collars, sprays, or topical treatments. Some acaricides kill the tick on contact. Others may be absorbed into a dog’s bloodstream, subsequently killing ticks that attach and feed. Because acaricides do not necessarily stop ticks from biting, these products may not prevent your dog from contracting diseases that ticks carry.

Consult your veterinarian before applying any product designed to kill or prevent ticks.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Much has been written of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and Babeseosis, and both ailments can affect dogs and people who have been bitten. Not every tick carries disease, but any dog who is bitten should be observed closely. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases may not appear for 7-21 days (or longer) after a tick bite, and may appear as fever, lack of appetite, lameness, and joint swelling. Take your dog to the veterinarian if he displays these symptoms.

A vaccine to prevent dogs from contracting Lyme disease is available through your veterinarian, though the Lyme vaccination doesn’t prevent other tick-borne diseases.

How to Remove a Tick from Your Dog

Not all ticks carry disease, but we still don’t want them on us or our pets. When you find one, here’s what to do:

● Don’t rely on folk wisdom: never use lit matches, petrol, petroleum jelly, or nail polish.

● Wear protective gloves, and do not crush, squeeze, or rupture the tick.

● Use a tick key/twister. Gently press the key/twister against your dog’s skin near the tick. Slide the notch of the remover under the tick and twist to pull it free. Be careful not to
jerk or tug too quickly.

● Use antiseptic to treat the spot where the tick was attached.

● Inspect the tick after removal; its mouth parts should be visible. If not, then they have broken off under the skin. In that case, pay extra attention to disinfecting the bite area, and continue monitoring for infection. It is not necessary to seek medical attention if the tick’s mouth parts remain under the skin.

● After removal, freeze the tick in a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer for diagnostic testing later if your veterinarian suspects a tick-borne disease.

Ticks are a pest, and a nuisance, and a worry. Dealing with them is the price we pay for having our pets out in nature where they belong. However, the precautions and solutions are not so daunting when we know what to do.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_pets.html
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27255853
www.bigtickproject.co.uk/ticks-in-the-uk/uk-tick-threat-map/
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37252925

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